Many of you might have been wondering why my wife and I have left YWAM, after 20 plus years of fulfilling ministry on three continents, to live in a small house in Chetek, WI and settle for a mindless job at Wal-Mart.
The answer is not simple or short so I hope that you can read this in its entirety.
Probably the roots of our current situation go back to living in the Boston area during the years of 1993 – 1998. We felt led to the city after doing a difficult but timely pioneer work with YWAM in the nation of Hungary from 1984 – 1992.
In the fall of 1993, our family joined a Baptist church in the city and tried our hardest to embrace the work of the church. We helped with the “Kids’ Church”, took part in the ministry to the homeless, taught small groups in people’s homes, preached an occasional Sunday a.m. service, attended the weekly Pastor’s prayer meeting, helped organize our church’s participation with the city wide March for Jesus, etc.
In short, we helped out where ever and how ever we could.
The Beginning of the End
One day our assistant pastor was caught by the Boston police spying on a woman in her home at night. He was a married man whose main ministry at the church was counseling and helping people with very personal problems. The tragedy of the situation is not the sin itself, but rather the fact that the church “body” had no idea of his darker side. The church “family” was completely blindsided by the event and embarrassed. The wide range of different opinions regarding the proper way of dealing with this situation reached from biblical counsel to all sorts of solutions that seemed to tear our body into different factions. The church leadership asked outside (professional) counsel to intervene. Maria and I were stunned.
At this point we started to ask ourselves the (very dangerous) question: “Just what is the church?”
If church was a family – how would a family deal with a situation like that?. This situation provoked in us such a “holy anger/frustration” with church-as-we-knew-it, that we felt there must be another way.
Ironically, at this same time we were being wooed by the Holy Spirit to leave the challenging work of pioneering YWAM-Greater Boston to venture off into the Muslim world in Tajikistan to try our hand at a “church planting work” with a small team.
We could not have been more perplex if we had tried: Convinced that “church as we knew it” was broken and in need of a major overhaul we were heading out to do church planting in Tajikistan with only this one type of church background in our Christian experience!
“The answers are all in Acts.”
Providently, the Lord put us together with Floyd McClung (former YWAM leader) in 1999 in Colorado to do a 10-month training school that focused on planting “cell-based churches” amongst the unreached nations. In this training period – which funny enough ended up with me working at Wal-Mart for 3 months – we caught a glimpse of how church planting could work and how church could look different. (You can keep current with the McClungs ministry at FloydandSally.org)
One major spiritual event that happened during this “preparation period” took place as we were waiting for our work visas to enter Tajikistan. We had flown into Germany at the beginning of 2000 and spent about 2-3 months waiting for the visa situation to be worked through. At this time I took daily walks with the Lord around my wife’s hometown, asking for guidance and spiritual input. Then suddenly, like a blot of lightening out of the heavens, the Lord spoke to me and said that “The answers are all in Acts.”
This revelation sent me on a 2 year study of the book of Acts and God started to unveil His plan to me for “church as He wants it” and church planting in the Muslim world. Yet it was not until our feet touched down in Central Asia in 2000 that we saw first hand how a “training school” can only do so much to prepare you for life in the “real world”.
Tajikistan or Bust!
Our first move in Tajikistan was to help with getting the small church we were assigned to work with out of their rented building and into homes. At the time, we knew that this move must sift through those who were serious about the Lord from those who only wanted to “hang out” with the foreigners for other fringe benefits.
Yet how many of you know that you can take the church out of the building but not get the church (institution) out of your system. The most descriptive thing I can say is that one of the team leaders arranged to bring into my home the small Bible lectern and the small vase of plastic flowers from our “normal” church and set them up in our living room. I guess that God could not speak to us with out those “tokens” of real church!!
Sad as this sounds, this has been our experience over and over again in our efforts to live and reproduce “Acts Church” again on the earth.
The second milestone in our early days in Tajikistan is really a tragic one. One Sunday morning in October of 2000 some Muslim extremists set off two bombs in a Tajik church led by a team of Koreans, killing nearly a dozen Tajiks and Russians.
The biggest tragedy for Maria and I was the fact that this bombing was carried out on innocent Tajik believers in large part due to the foreign presence – physically and financially – of their leaders. Other missionaries in the country brought up that the foreign leadership of the church were “flaunting” their work of saving 100,000s of Tajiks on the Internet and may have possibly provoked the extremists.
We became convinced that everything that Tajikistan needed to see a people movement to Christ was already in the country! We were more and more certain that “church-as-we-knew-it” and “missions-as-we- knew-it” were broken and needed not to be just tweaked but completely transformed.
Meeting Two New Authors
In July 2003, we headed back to the USA for an anticipated 6-months furlough which has taken us directly into the house church movement in the States and has us presently out of traditional missions and traditional church. Two major influences in our lives since 2003 have been the books of Roland Allen and Wolfgang Simson. We cannot recommend these writings strongly enough. To really understand where we are right now and where we are headed these books are essential.
Roland Allen wrote a ground-breaking missionary handbook back in 1927 that still leaves Maria and I breathless and groping for answers:The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church and the causes that hinder it.
Here is a brief example of his writing:
”The continued presence of a foreigner seems to me to produce an evil effect. The native genius is cramped by his presence, and cannot work with him. The Christians tend to sit still and let him do everything for them, denying all responsibility…I should feel disposed to group all foreigners (ie. missionaries) together in one place to avoid having them reside in more places than can be helped. A visit of two or three months stirs up the Church. Long continued residence stifles it.”
Wolfgang Simson’s book Houses that Change the World spoke to our hearts that God is indeed changing the church and bring the church back into the hands of the people and back into their homes. We also bought a series of tapes from Wolfgang in 2003 on the subject of Reaching Muslims through House Churches. In those tapes he bravely spoke of the changing landscape of missions by stating that
“80% of all missionaries should come home. The sooner the better.”
We had never heard such a statement from any one else but completely agree with all its ramifications.
These are hard messages to hear, let alone to live out. We feel like the journey we are on now will not be fully understood for maybe a long time. We can only go forward in humility and patience, asking others to simply do the same with us.
We are not sure what the future will look like we just know that what we have done in the past (as much as we loved it) cannot be found in Scripture and we had to put our convictions into action.
The church has to be taken out of the hands of the professional and put back into the hands of the people. Missions needs to be taken out of the hands of the people and put into the hands of the apostles.
We have not arrived at the answer but we are searching and asking the Lord for the answer as our hearts burn for the Muslim world.
Yours for the least in the Kingdom,
Original post: 03/19/2007
Let’s have a go at the NIV first, easily the most popular modern translations of the Bible into English.
In a word: I really have a hard time with its non-literal translation of the original languages. At critical moments it is too liberal with its translation, changing into a modern “explanation” rather than a direct translation. This can be a risky business.
Of course who doesn’t enjoy a Bible without “Thous” and “Thees” and “doest” and “wouldest”? But when a Bible translation starts to be “interpreted” by the translators then I get a bit nervous. Another writer carefully warns us on this very point:
“The moderate use of the so-called dynamic equivalence method of translation in the [NIV] version involved a trade-off in which accuracy was sometimes sacrificed for the sake of readability.” (Brent Kercheville)
Here is an additional voice: “Readability seems to have been a higher priority than anything else.” (Daniel Wallace)
Can I give you just two example of this treacherous “readability factor” that I hope will sway you?
#1. Weeds are not Tares.
In Matthew 13 we find seven parables Jesus told to express His belief about the kingdom of heaven – “The kingdom of heaven is like.” In the NIV Bible the pertinent part of the 2nd parable, the parable of the wheat and the weeds, is translated like this:
“While everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.” 13:24-25
In using “weeds” instead of the stronger (and more literal) “tares” we see where the NIV “readability factor” sacrifices the deeper meaning of the parable. A weed is simply a “generic wild plant” but a tare is an “imitation crop” which looks exactly like wheat, especially in the early stages, and later turns into a poisonous plant! Strong’s Concordance calls tares: bastard wheat; resembling wheat except the grains are black.
Can you not see the depth of meaning lost by reading his enemy “sowed weeds among the wheat” instead of tares. Tares are “sons of the evil one” who infiltrate the kingdom of heaven by Satan’s deft hand and bring in an imitation product, through false teaching, tickling itchy ears and doctrines of demons.
Not convinced…? Well, let’s try another.
2. Yeast is not Leaven.
Here is another parable from Matthew 13.
“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” 13:33
Once again, in using “yeast” instead of the stronger (and more literal) “leaven” we see that “accuracy was sacrificed for the sake of readability”.
Leaven, you see, is in itself a rotting, decaying process. The ancient Hebrews were never to offer it in their grain offerings and were to completely remove it from their homes during Passover. Leaven was excluded because fermentation was an apt symbol of the working of corruption in the human heart. “Leaven is actually the process of deterioration by rotting.” (Chuck Smith)
Yeast doesn’t convey rotting or corruption at all but, because yeast is what we bake with in our modern world, the translators “interpreted this word for us” and chose yeast over leaven. Ouch!
(Before I can go on, I must mention that the word used in NIV as “mixed into” is in the Greek “enkrupto”. “Enkrupto”, from whence we get our English word “encrypt”, underscores a secret hiding and encryption of the leaven into the flour missed by the translators for the sake of modernization.)
As leaven, which deteriorates its environment by decaying, was secretly hid in the flour by the woman we read that the whole batch of dough was eventually corrupted. The woman may be a similar type of an enemy that “sowed the tares while everyone slept”, but I don’t want to press this point. (If you read this chapter in its context rather than a “clip-and-paste” approach, you will see that these parables are full of enemies: birds, tares, and bad fish.)
Jesus equated leaven in the Gospels with the false teaching/doctrine and hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Paul wrote of the “malice and wickedness” of leaven. There is no way Jesus’ audience could have interpreted this parable as the influence of good impacting the whole UNLESS He had made it absolutely clear He was changing the thousand year old usage of leaven. Using yeast only further continues to blind us to the truth of this parable.
I would like to speak of only one verse in the KJV Bible that gives me, I believe, sufficient grounds for not reading it. One could find many similar examples.
“This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” 1 Timothy 3: 1
I have high-lighted the words the office of a bishop for a reason, because in the original Greek they are only one word: “episkopē” and this word could have been easily translated as one word back into English: “overseership”. Yet the KJV uses the more formal sounding, hierarchical title of “office of a bishop” to further promote the control and authority King James desperately wanted to keep over his empire!
“King James gave the translators instructions intended to guarantee that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology and reflect the Episcopal structure of the Church of England and its beliefs about an ordained clergy. The task of translation was undertaken by 47 scholars. All were members of the Church of England and all except Sir Henry Savile were clergy.” (wikipedia.com)
Please don’t cringe because I quoted wikipedia. That same verdict you can find in a hundred other places.
I cannot bring myself to read or recommend the KJV as it breathes on every page an attempt to “conform to the ecclesiology and reflect the Episcopal structure of the Church of England”. It was written in reaction to the break away Puritans and sought to redirect the people to the old power structures of the state church.
What I do recommend is the NASB. It is a more literal, “word for word” translation and does not bother with “dynamic equivalence”. At times I find it hard to read and suggest looking at other translations or the Greek original for help. At times it seems to reflect the KJV view. But if you use discretion and sound judgment I can say that the NASB puts you immediately closer to the actual words of God than almost any other translation.
P.S. Comments welcome!
For most people today the biblical metaphor of leaven typifying evil (or sin) is not too hard to understand. The ancient Hebrews knew that leaven was to be kept out of their grain offerings and removed completely from their homes during Passover. Leaven was excluded because fermentation was an apt symbol of the working of corruption in the human heart.
“Leaven is actually the process of deterioration by rotting.” (Chuck Smith)
For thousands of years, Jewish society understood leaven as a type of “incipient evil” — evil in its embryonic and ever-expanding state. It starts small and insignificant but will eventually corrupt the entire batch. Never in their wildest dreams would they use an expression like the “leaven of the gospel penetrating all levels of society.”
Here is what they knew of it:
‘On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. (Ex 12:15)
Jesus Christ later made the same usage of the word when He told His disciples to:
“Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” Mk 8:15
“Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Mtt 16:12
Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” Luke 12:1
The apostle Paul, who wrote most of the New testament, was consistent in his use of leaven:
Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I Cor 5:8
Now here comes the twist — calling evil good?
So what are we to do when the kingdom of heaven is compared to leaven as in the famous Parable of Leaven from Matthew 13?
He spoke another parable to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.” Matthew 13:33
Well, traditionally, THE standard (and popular-like-WalMart) answer is that in this case leaven is a type of good and leaven is used here as an “infiltrating power” – like an invisible virus – which will impact the whole batch, signifying the power of the gospel to transform all levels of society, etc. To me this interpretation fits a rather overly optimistic view of the Gospel in disregard to the clear teaching of the text. Just a few verses earlier Jesus taught that “an enemy” would sow (imitation) tares amongst the true wheat and they would both grow together – sons of the kingdom and sons of the evil one – until the harvest, until the end of the age.
“So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Mtt 13: 40-42
This is like straining the metaphor of a “thorn” until it suggests something beautiful! Isn’t it strange how quickly we set aside Jesus’ exhortation to the disciples:“However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”(Luke 18:8)
Just a few sentences earlier Jesus had equaled the days of His Second Coming with the days of Noah — which is not too exciting a picture when we think back that only eight people were saved through the ark, even after 100 years of warning!
“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man.” Luke 17:26
Why did the woman hide the leaven in the flour?
I understand that leaven can easily be compared to something small but packed with power; like TNT! Like the small mustard seed of the previous parable… BUT what does it mean that the woman hides the leaven in the flour?
In Greek the word “hid in” is “enkrupto”. Strong’s Concordance tells us that it means: to hide, conceal; to conceal (that it may not become known).
Interestingly enough, “enkrupto” has a similar meaning in our modern English. It is the same word from which we get our word “encrypt”. Here is where we can start to see another way to interpret this verse along a different path than the popular one!
A general tells his lieutenant, “Encrypt this message and take it to the colonel at the front line.” What does the lieutenant do when he encrypts it? He mixes up the letters according to a code, and only a person with the key to the encryption knows what the message is saying. (Richard T. Ritenbaugh)
Does not history lead us to the true meaning of this parable?
Leaven is symbolic of things that disintegrate, break up, and corrupt. The leaven of the Pharisees was hypocritical formality. That of the Sadducees was skepticism. Herod’s was of shameful self-indulgence in worldly desires. The leaven of those who have distorted doctrine down through the ages has been greed, pride, control, and worldly desires. Martin G. Collins
Leaven is evil. Leaven is false teaching and hypocrisy. Was not the kingdom infiltrated by countless false teachers, false elders, false brethren and false apostles who wormed their way into the early church and beyond, eager to tickle the ears of their audience?
Paul, in his last letter, gave Timothy a stern warning of such influence of leaven:
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (2 Tim 4:3-4)
I cannot do better than to close with another quote by an author who has spent considerable time in this chapter and is bringing forth its true meaning.
Jesus warns in this parable that false doctrines would be infused by stealth into the church, and these evil beliefs would corrupt, erode, and destroy relationships. If the false doctrines are allowed to grow, affection and loving concern in service to one another are thwarted. The phrase “until all was leavened” is a sobering indication that the church would be plagued by insensitive, uncaring, self-absorbed, self-centered attitudes that would spread through the church just as leaven spreads through bread dough. The apostle Paul tells us “through love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13), which is an antidote to the woman’s devious subterfuge. (Richard T. Ritenbaugh)
Yours for the Coming One,
Why the sun lightens our hair, but darkens our skin?
Why is “abbreviated” such a long word?
Why is it that doctors call what they do “practice”?
Why is lemon juice made with artificial flavor, and dish-washing liquid made with real lemons?
Why is the time of day with the slowest traffic called rush hour?
Why do they sterilize the needle for lethal injections?
Why don’t sheep shrink when it rains?
“As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines” (1Tim 1:3)
The apostle Paul saw a great need for another apostle, Timothy, to “remain on at Ephesus” because there were “certain men” – really false elders – who were leading the church in a bad direction. Actually, the whole book of I Timothy you can consider as a manual of what to do about wayward elders and how to reproduce true ones!
Having apostles around was one of the key components in keeping together a “pure church” . Paul said as much when he wrote to the Ephesians:
”And He [Christ] gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph 4:11-12)
Here we read that apostles along with prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (commonly called the five-fold ministry gifts) were key to the success of the building up and proper functioning of the body of Christ.
Apostles in action in the early church.
Apostles in the early church were “sent ones” who traveled the world bringing Christ to an unreached area. They were small in number and extremely mobile. Sometimes they stayed in a city for as little as a month or two; staying just long enough to “lay the foundation” of a new fellowship of believers. They used homes exclusively – both for lodging and for gatherings/meetings.
One important trait of a NT apostle is that they manifested the “signs of an apostle” amongst themselves as they went from city to city, region by region.
”The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.” (2 Cor. 12:12) ”in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit… I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” (Rom 15:19)
Apostles plant the seed.
Apostles, along with prophets, lay the foundations. Others coming after were to build off that foundation.
”I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” I Cor 3:6 NIV
Apostles not only planted the seed, but were of necessity “first on the scene” and first to be involved in the church life:
”And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings…” I Cor 12:28
Apostles bring correction.
Apostles are one of only a handful of people who can bring godly correction and rebuke to the local church.
In I Timothy Paul urged Timothy to stay on longer in Ephesus so that you “may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer” (I Tim 1:3). By doing this Timothy was fulfilling his role as an apostle to the local church! This “roving band of apostles” kept the early church healthy and on track. If there were sin issues to deal with at the local church level, the apostles had the authority and position to address it:
”[Timothy] do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning. I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality.” (1Ti 5:19-21)
Dear Friends, Church boards and committees can never bring about the correction and rebuke required to keep the local church healthy and free from sin! We cannot vote our way through a difficult situation when a rebuke of the senior pastor/elder may be what’s needed!
We need apostles who have the authority from God to “deliver over to satan” men and women who are living outside the borders set by God, so that they will be brought back into the fold! (1 Tim. 1:20; I Cor 5:5)
We need apostles who are “called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (I Cor 1:1) who can exercise their roles and function as servants of God in our midst. If you and your church don’t have an apostle, get one! If you cannot find one, pray hard and raise one up!
Yours for the Coming King,